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Full text of "Danger of Political Apathy"

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502 THE NORTB AMERICAN REVIEW. 

i j all parts of the world, it would take some time to do this, but the work 
could be accomplished in due time by an energetic enemy. 

Distant colonies and coaling stations require ownership of cables, and 
if the United States Government decides to hold the Philippines it must be 
only a question of time before it will become imperative upon her to 
construct a cable there via Hawaii. Already the question of building a 
cable to the latter country has been agitated so generally that it is more 
than likely that either our government or American capitalists will eventu- 
ally construct one: A Pacific Coast cable connecting our country with 
China and Japan is felt in many quarters to be only a question of time. The 
present war will probably expedite plans for building it. British capital- 
ists stand ready to construct such a cable, and it is only the practical 
prohibition of the United States toward such a British scheme that holds 
the matter in check for the time being. 

George Ethelbert Walsh. 



DANGER OP POLITICAL APATHY. 

Good citizenship requires that we devote much attention to public 
affairs. It is the only way in which we can hope to conserve our liberties, 
protect our families, and perpetuate free government. No man can be a 
good citizen in theory alone. Citizenship demands action. It has to deal 
with conditions. A man may profess much love and admiration for our 
federal union, our institutional politics, our bicameral legislature, our in- 
dependent judiciary, or the many other distinguishing parts of our system, 
but if he fail in actively supporting them, both by word and deed, he is but 
a sojourner here— not a citizen. 

The support of government consists not alone in the payment of taxes. 
Money never made a free state, nor has it ever maintained one. Wealth may 
free us from the worry of many temporal concerns, but it cannot sever us 
from society and those social institutions which form the basis of all liberty, 
happiness and financial security. 

A great many men of wealth display no personal activity in politics. 
The cares of business engross their whole attention. They seldom attend 
their party primaries, and many do not vote; they are citizens by proxy. 
When they desire the accomplishment of any political purpose, however 
good, a professional politician or lobbyist is employed to do the work for 
them, while they go on making money. Lord Bacon truly says that gold 
has sold more men than it has ever bought. 

The greater portion of our recent political ills, and particularly the 
enormous corruption and dishonesty which seem now to pervade legislation 
and politics in general, may be directly ascribed to the fact of so consider- 
able a number of our gitasi-citizens remaining aloof from politics. Some 
of them seem to merit the remark of Thomas Jefferson, that " merchants 
have no country. The spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an 
attachment as that from which they draw their gains." Aristotle says that 
commerce "is incompatible with that dignified life which it is our wish that 
our citizens should lead, and totally adverse to that generous elevation of 
mind with which it is our ambition to inspire them." It is unfortunately 
true that men in mercantile pursuits are too apt to measure all things by 
standards of pecuniary value. Their mode of life will naturally induce 
this habit of mind, unless precaution is used to guard against it. There is 



NOTES AND COMMENTS. 503 

nothing singular in the fact that the rich man's contribution to politics is 
usually in the form of a campaign fund. 

Where there is a business man who has no time for politics there is 
usually some person looking after his interests for him, and that person 
must be paid. Even though hired for good these mercenaries seldom ac- 
complish the permanent good that is wrought by men who work from 
principle. Like soldiers of fortune, they stand ever ready to overturn the 
work of their own hands; A man who must be hired to work for a righteous 
cause will ultimately become so depraved that he will never work in behalf 
of right unless he is hired to do so ; his moral sense is dulled, and he no 
longer discriminates between right and wrong, supporting either with 
equal facility, in compliance with his employer's will. This corrupt state 
is undoubtedly the condition of many in America today. They may be 
found in political conventions, in the halls of Congress, in our State Legis- 
latures, and in most municipal assemblies. 

We have, for the purpose of illustration, supposed the hired lobbyist or 
politician to be employed in a good cause. As a matter of fact, these men 
are usually employed for evil purposes. And, although their cause may be 
Just, they will seek to aid it by every species of dishonesty. They work in 
dark and crooked ways. 

Every man should realize that the government under which he lives is a 
personal charge of the highest nature, and one involving the gravest re- 
sponsibility. Where bad government exists the people have none but them- 
selves to blame, for in them alone is the remedy. They are the fountain of 
all legitimate power, the ultimate source of _all governmental authority. 
They may make government, or mar it. Government never neglects the 
people unless the people first neglect the government. 

It will be seen that in those countries which have suffered most from 
bad government, a great portion of the citizens have been poorly versed in 
public affairs, or have been lax in the discharge of those duties which are 
demanded by good citizenship. 

No citizen has a right to criticise public affairs, or bewail evil conditions 
which may exist, unless he is willing to work, as all citizens should, to 
better those conditions. Let him ask himself if he has done his own duty 
before he laments the fact that others have failed in theirs. Let him be 
certain that he understands the duties of citizenship in his country. Few 
perfectly understand their obligations as citizens, although the subject is 
one to which every freeman should devote careful study. They would then 
be capable of active and intelligent effort, and would perceive the folly of 
idle criticism. They would then know that liberty, like all things truly 
valuable, cannot be gained or kept without great effort, and that it remains 
not long with the undeserving. 

Good laws and good constitutions are desirable, but even these can be 
available for the public good only when sustained by an earnest and active 
patriotism. The strongest bulwark of popular security cannot endure, if 
we permit the vermin of political apathy to pierce its walls, and thus open 
the sluices to the flood. The damage may be slight at first— imperceptible, 
perhaps— but the silent forces of destruction are ever at work. The constant 
pressure of the waters soon widens the mole-hole into a crevasse. 

So it is with the forces that struggle against our free institutions. Un- 
relaxing and persistent, their tireless energies are ever exerted, and the 
smallest aperture may precede the cataclysm. 



504 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

Our ancestors have left us civil liberty. They obtained it at great cost. 
It is worth preserving, or it is not. If it is, every citizen is in duty bound 
to work toward that end. Those who affirm that our liberties are not in 
danger, evince surprising ignorance of the nature and history of the rights 
of man. Civil liberty is always in danger. It is so from its very constitu- 
tion, being in its perfection but an equipoise of contending forces. It is 
endangered by the very power that gives it being. It is as susceptible of 
harm as the plant whose tender buds are drawn forth by the temperate 
beams of springtime, and withered by the summer sun. 

Let us not augment our perils by closing our eyes against them. Our 
dangers are the greater because internal. To outer foes we present a solid 
front. But with what are we to oppose that intangible spirit of indifferent- 
ism which saps our energies at home ? Political activity alone can oppose 
it— that ceaseless, vigilant and honest political activity which is ever 
prompted by a lofty patriotism. 

Speed Mosby. 



FANCY WORK OR NATURE STUDIES. 

The prevalence of abortive effects in art through the medium of fancy 
work is pathetic, though from an anthropological point of view it is an in- 
teresting contribution to the study of woman, for it shows her tireless ener- 
gy in doing something. Yet the amount of useless needlework bric-a-brac 
that is yearly produced is frightful, and since sewing-machines have been in- 
vested with skill in embroidery, the monstrosities in art which are heaped 
upon shop-counters and from there carried into homes, have spread over the 
country like miasmatic exhalations towards the beautiful. 

The first impulse towards the inchoate mass of fancy work which marks 
a girl's career is now received in the Kindergartens, through the braiding 
or weaving of strips of brightly colored paper. In defence of this ingenious 
method of occupation it is urged that it promotes the perception of harmony 
and color, and is also useful in furnishing inexpensive Christmas gifts. 
The little child sends a braided paper-mat to her grandmother, who returns 
thanks for the innocent offering in a printed note which deludes the child 
into thinking that she has wrought a meritorious deed (and she truly has), 
but which also impairs her sense of relative values, artistic or moral. 
From paper-mats she progresses to hairpin cases, etc. A young girl, who 
had been brought up to send such annual testimonials of respect to an aged 
friend, had them all restored to her when she was eighteen and in charge of 
a table at a fair. She examined them tentatively, commiseratingly, until 
she recognized that the articles had been the work of her fingers. Indignant 
at this betrayal of friendship she concealed their origin, but was compelled 
to offer them for sale. They were purchased as a job-lot for a distant mis- 
sion by a philanthropic woman, who, attracted by their cheap price, neg- 
lected to inspect them carefully. The receipt of them was soon acknowl- 
edged by a missionary, who remonstrated against the bestowal of such 
job-lots, as they set a bad example in neatness, color and design to his peo- 
ple. The unfortunate young girl, who had made them, was only one of the 
thousands who are beguiled into fancy work through the fictitious necessity 
of making presents, a Christmas obligation which is one of the causes that 
have led to this mania for fancy work, through which most women pass as 
regularly as when children they had measlest